Intellectual property is one of the most difficult things to protect. There is no greater hazard to your company than losing these critical pieces of information. Whether they’re plans for new efforts in assembly, or simply the materials you use to train your employees, the risks of losing such information to your competition are real and potentially very expensive over the long term.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
1. Secure your materials
As with anything valuable, you must secure proprietary information where it is stored and handled. When your valuable are virtual goods like training materials, one of the most important things to consider is comprehensive network security. Failing to implement security is an invite to hackers and thieves to help themselves to your confidential data.
It can be difficult to convince personnel that these steps are as important. It is a worthwhile investment of your time to conduct in-service training or host other activities to impress upon everyone that utilizing the required encryption, password protection, and firewall steps is as important as locking the front door of the Louvre.
2. Don’t train your tentative employees until they need it
Secure information is often described as being available on a “need to know” basis. If someone doesn’t need to know, don’t tell them. Apart from reducing the amount of training that goes on, this also helps secure data. Imagine taking a new employee through a full week of training on your materials and then losing him or her–and subsequently, the intellectual property–to a competitor. There is always the risk of that happening, but if that employee did not yet need to be trained in so many aspects within the first week, it was an unnecessary risk to have taken.
This also cuts down on wasted effort in training. It can be very exciting when new methods or topics come available, and the temptation can be great to hurry and get ahead of the curve by training personnel as quickly as possible. However, the inevitable bugs associated with the rollout of new versions of any product–concrete or virtual–necessitate a more measured approach in training personnel. That brings us to our next point.
3. Keep the target moving
Sometimes the best strategy to avoid theft of your intellectual property is to change it. It doesn’t require a complete overhaul of everything you do, just a few basic changes or re-ordering of steps.
A good example of this, on a simpler level, is the evolution of company logos. While we think the Golden Arches at McDonald’s are unchanged from Ray Kroc’s earliest days in the U.S., the fact is that there has been an ongoing evolution in the coloration, shape, font, and so forth ever since it first emerged.
Think of your training the same way. For starters, any product, service, or system that you are training on will undergo periodic changes. Anything technological certainly will. So sometimes, the mere passage of a few months can make any pirated information obsolete. And if you can accelerate that process, even just a little, your vulnerability is even lower.
As an employee, the knowledge and materials generated by your employer required many hours of work and significant financial investments to create. It is your duty not only to make use of them, but to make sure that they stay in-house where they belong so that those investments pay off.
4. Make a habit of documenting everything
Just keeping patents is simply not enough. When you register your patent and start working on your idea, you start a war with a lot of people who are in same industry. Keeping a journal is a best practice. This journal should include everything from the inception of the idea, every meeting you make, every person you meet. Doing this will help you really grab hold of your idea and aid you in auditing any leaks.
5. Execute your ideas quickly
Our mind is a thinking machine, and sometimes, when it’s on the move, it showers us with noble ideas, but it can also feed us negativity and depression. When you think an idea is worth chasing, you should act on it fast. You’re never sure whether somebody, somewhere, might have a similar idea, and beat you to it. As businessmen put it, idea plus execution plus investment increases your chances of success.